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2012 : Revisiting Worth 60 Years On Review

2012 Revisiting Worth 60 Years On

The greatly anticipated day of the Worth Jubilee Jamboree dawned as a wonderful bright summer’s day, and the excitement mounted as noon approached and the guests arrived to see the huge preparations that had been made for these festivities by the Friends of Worth.

As we entered the Quad, we were greeted by Dodgems and a Meteor Centrifuge – all ready and waiting for those daring enough to have a go!  These, together with the many other fairground facilities, showed the great effort that the Friends of Worth had made for the benefit of the whole Worth community on this celebratory day.

Central to the ‘great day’ was an invitation that had been extended to boys who attended Worth during the time of the Queen’s ascension to the throne in 1952 and her Coronation in 1953.  I arrived at Worth in 1937 to join my brother, David, who had started at Worth when it first opened in 1933.  Today, I was one of those able to represent boys who were at the Prep School prior to the Second World War, until the time when everyone was evacuated to Downside in 1940.

I was thoroughly spoilt having arrived the day before to spend the night with my nephew, Giles Watson (who is Housemaster of Gervase) and his wife Anna and their delightful children whom I had not seen for four years.  So for me, it was just a minute’s stroll from Gervase to the main Quad, where I arrived in time to be greeted by the familiar face of Abbot Kevin (in our day a young Novice and a fine rugby player) and to meet some of my compatriots.

The Jamboree opened at 12 noon with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, played on an electric guitar from the top of the Tower.  From here our worthy group was ushered into the Cowdray Room, where the Abbot conducted a brief blessing to mark the start of our reunion and the School’s current Head Master, Gino Carminati, warmly welcomed us all.  There were further warm words from the ever smiling Fr Stephen, himself a former Abbot and, like Fr Kevin, an Old Gregorian.

We were then free to mingle and talk (and talk we did!) while enjoying free-flowing champagne and some delicious canapés.

A sumptuous buffet lunch followed, when we were joined by Abbot Kevin again and other members of the Monastic community.  It was a great opportunity to reconvene with old friends and I was able to say a big hello to Dom Philip Gaisford, whom I had last met at a lunch with his father and mother at the Residency in Bangalore when he was just nine years old!  Although I had been at Downside with his elder brothers, I hadn’t seen Dom Philip since that day.

After lunch we were taken on an extended tour of the School to re-visit some of our old Prep School haunts.  The tour was led by Fr Stephen and some charming members of the girls’ houses – St Mary’s (boarding) and St Ann’s (day) – who kept us amused and entertained throughout with anecdotes as to how it had been for them joining the formerly all-male community at Worth, and of experiences from their previous schools.

We had a nostalgic visit was to the Monks’ Cemetery where I found many old friends, including Abbot Victor Farwell who was Second Master at the time that Worth was evacuated to the Worth Block at Downside during the war.  Abbot Victor continued to run the Scout Troop there, and I became the first 1st Class Scout of the Troop back in 1940!  Others that brought back many memories included Dom Maurice (it was me that nicknamed him FJ), Dom Julian, Dom Alban and Dom Oliver.

Other great memories flooded back to me – including Christmas holidays spent at Worth with my brother when our parents were based in India; the time when Dom Simon van-Zellar took me shooting with a .22 rifle and we bagged an albino squirrel; a Christmas trip to Bertram Mills Circus with the then Prior, Dom Siegbert Trafford.  Oh, what happy days these were – particularly compared to those spent at the sad convent where I went before moving onto Worth.  It was, literally, heaven on earth!

We returned to the Cowdray Room for the taking of a ‘team’ photograph on the lawn which was followed by a welcome cup of tea from the Jubilee Jamboree’s ‘Vintage Tea Tent’. 

Our thanks to everyone who helped to make this great visit to Worth such a happy and nostalgic occasion for us Prep School boys – what a day!

Ted Pigot (1937-41)


Memories Past

“I started at the Prep School in Sept 1952 and remember the Coronation well. I was in the infirmary with Chicken Pox which was sweeping through the school at the time!  Whether I was allowed out for any of the celebrations at all, I can’t remember now.”

Michael Agius (1952-58 )


“I can remember the Coronation so well – not least for the sheer magic of a ‘live’ outside broadcast which I had never seen before, and also having a television picture projected onto a screen on the building behind, what at the time, was known as Tower House.  In those days we didn’t have a television at home, so it was an additional thrill.

“Perhaps the most poignant moment for me in returning for the Jamboree was evoked as I approached the gates at the end of the front drive.  I wound down the window in anticipation of waving my car park sticker at someone, and as the azaleas came into view I caught the smell of them.  In a split second I was transported back 60 years. It was quite surreal that a 60 year-old memory could be so stimulated with one whiff; and perhaps even more amazing to think that those azaleas look as wonderful now as they did then – quite remarkable!”

Michael Hawkins (1949-53)


“The time at Worth for the Jamboree was indeed charged with emotion – reflecting our stay at Worth Priory (as it was then), was a very happy period in our lives.  Watching the Queen sail down the Thames yesterday on the television, I felt grateful to her for the Jubilee which brought us all together; a finer excuse, impossible.”

Tom Maddock (1954-55)


“I reported back to my sister, Jane, who was very disappointed not to be there.  She remembered over half of those who came to the reunion and could recount many stories about them.  I thought it inappropriate to tell the very helpful girls who showed us around of her memories of Fr Stephen who, when in Tower House, would swing from the rafters; his ambition at that age to be Tarzan!”

Simon Matthews (1947-52)


“By special request, Fr Stephen very kindly took me up to my old dormitory, now known as the O’Connor Room.  During the time that Worth was requisitioned during the Second World War, the O’Connor Room had been used as the planning room for the Canadian Infantry Division’s part in the invasion of Europe as part of VIII Corps, commanded by the highly decorated and distinguished General, Sir Richard O’Connor.

“The commemorative plaque of Worth’s military occupation (now rather difficult to read and probably the worse for wear after many more years of ‘pupil occupation’!) had been above my bed on the North wall of the room.  It now resides on the East wall.

“Another piece of Worth history that many I spoke to seemed unaware of, is that the first torpedo was tested out in the pond. Although unsubstantiated, it seems quite credible since the inventor, Robert Whitehead, bought the estate in 1881.

“Anyway, that minor excursion down the dark narrow passage to what had been the chapel and up the small winding oak staircase to the dormitory, opposite which Dom Michael Smith – know to us as Snitch – had a small room, was perhaps the most evocative part of my visit back to Worth.  I could almost hear the shrill screams of us young boys as we broke the ‘no running, no ragging around’ rules.”

Roddy Mellotte (1952-55)


“Thank you so much for your part in organising such a happy reunion at Worth.  Although much has necessarily been done to improve and modernise the school and monastic facilities since the 1950s, Worth still retains that sense of peace and wellbeing which has always remained with me.  To see it all in celebration and in perfect weather was a real treat.  Of course nostalgia ruled – but that’s no bad thing once in a while.

“Meeting old friends and recollections of many friends, teachers and mentors now at rest, came flooding back.  Perhaps most vivid of all was the memory of waiting in the Quad on Sunday mornings to see my parent’s car appear around the bend at the end of the drive to take us home for an exeat.  Happy home and happy school – what more could a boy have wanted – a true blessing.”

Peter Pavry (1953-58)


“I approached my first visit since leaving Worth with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried though, as the whole day was a delight – bringing back many memories in the most friendly and open-hearted company.  I recalled the day of the Coronation seen on a tiny monochrome TV set up on the stage in Tower House; the stables where I had ridden a series of overweight ponies; the grounds around which Dom Brendan Lavery used to ride around on his motorcycle; Dom Jerome’s ‘0’ gauge steam railway in the basement and Dom Dennis’s ‘00’ one in his study; the baby grand piano belonging to Dom Thomas Symons on which I once found a letter from Sibelius; and of course Dom Maurice Bell, the then Headmaster, and his attempts to inculcate musical appreciation on a wind-up gramophone.  Visiting the Monastic cemetery was most poignant and Abbot Kevin’s conducted tour of the Abbey church was a fitting end to our visit.

Alan Ridgway (1947-53)


“I remember particularly the day the old King died.  There were classrooms called the Potting Sheds, and everything just stopped when his death was announced.  It was quite extraordinary – we all came out of the classrooms and milled about, not really knowing what to say or to do.”

Anthony Staveacre